Privacy SOS

Aisha Salehi (a pseudonym) an attorney, wants to be clear about one thing. 

“For the most part, I have not been mistreated for being a Muslim. When I compare how non Muslims are treated in Muslim countries or even how Pakistanis are treated in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, I really don’t want to exaggerate the Islamophobia here in the US. For the most part, things are better here than in lots of places. That’s why we all live here.”

She then describes returning home to Boston from the United Arab Emirates. She had a stop over at New York’s Kennedy Airport. When she showed her passport to a border patrol officer, the first thing he said to her was “Oh, you won the lottery” as he put her passport in a blue folder. Suitcase in hand, she was then taken to one location, then a second location, and finally a third location. “You are not going to need your suitcase, you are going to be here for awhile,” she was told.

They detained her for about an hour and asked her lots of questions. They said they detained her because Karachi was listed on her ticket, but she never went on that leg of the journey. “The detention was quite inexplicable and unnerving. I am an attorney, I am American, I speak English and I was still scared. I cannot imagine how intimidating it would be for someone who was a new immigrant or could not speak English.”

She says that while she was detained an Arab youth was also being held. He looked to be about 20 years old. 

“He looked so scared. I wanted to help him somehow or tell him something but I didn’t want to make things worse for him or myself. It is scary because you don’t know what can happen or what they can do. Before 9/11, I would never feel this fear, but now I do. But at the same time, I did not want to look like I was freaking out, because I did not want to look suspicious.”

Go back to the report: “Targets of the Surveillance System: Activists”

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.